January 11, 2017

Teach Clarke County Public School Students About Consent

I am a student at Clarke Central High School. I love my school. Recently, for the second time in less than a year, it was brought to light that there was a sexual assault at my school. The student was quickly suspended, police were contacted, and The Cottage was present to help the student that was assaulted. I was glad to hear that it was handled efficiently and with respect. The teachers were given a letter to read about what happened, that it was under control.

The issue is, that was it. Very few people talked about it, and most people have let it slip their minds by now. I am sickened by this. In my women's studies group, we talked about how lightly it was brushed over, how easy it was for us to just forget about it, how few kids in our school knew about consent.

The "comprehensive" sex-ed lecture that we have is anything but comprehensive or forward. The word “consent” is never mentioned once. The idea of consent isn't even fostered in our schools. Even after the sexual assault at Cedar Shoals and now the assault at Clarke Central, consent was never discussed.

I believe that consent is the very first thing you should learn in sexual education. I contacted my school's principal, Marie Yuran, about this opportune time to discuss consent—to push for a conversation about sexual assault, about rape, about what is not OK, about consent. Mrs. Yuran has still not contacted me or even acknowledged my two emails.  

One in five high-school girls are said to have been sexually assaulted in school. One in eight high-school-age girls are raped. Fifty-eight percent of girls are sexually harassed or assaulted during grades 7–12. By the time students go to college, these numbers double, and the chances of being sexually assaulted are much greater. In other words, by college it is too late for many girls.

This is a real issue and a conversation that needs to be had. I am angry and sad and frustrated that girls aren't even safe at school. I want to be proud of my school, my district, my county and my city, but I can't until a conversation about consent is opened up in every sex-ed class any student must be in. Please don't let what needs to be said go unheard.

The following text is the two emails I sent to Mrs. Yuran on Dec. 5 and 8:

I would like to personally thank you for handling the alleged case of sexual assault very well. The seriousness and brevity in which you handled the situation made me proud to be CCSD. Knowing that a student can come to the school and the school will do something about the situation is comforting to know and makes me feel much safer in school knowing that, if anything happens, it will be taken care of.

I would like to ask, in light of what has happened, that you reach out to teachers about opening a conversation in their classes about consent. As a female student at Clarke Central, I feel it is time for a conversation about consent. Students are not taught about consent in school or sex ed, and I feel that hearing it coming from teachers is important. I know that many teachers don't have time due to it being the end of the semester. I still strongly feel that it is a conversation that we need to have in class and as soon as possible. Students need to know the severity of sexual assault and the huge importance of consent in all aspects of a relationship, sexual or not. Even if you were able to just mention to teachers that this conversation needs to be had it would be greatly appreciated. I know that this is not only the feeling of myself, but many other students at Clarke Central. Please do not let this perfect time for difficult conversations to pass.

The following is the second email I sent:

As a student at Clarke Central, I am upset and concerned with the lack of discussion of consent at our school. I have never once in our sex-ed classes heard the discussion of consent. I know that this is not under your control and that it is a part of the state’s curriculum. I do understand, though, that what we discuss in advisement and in our classrooms is under your control. If they won't teach consent in sex ed, then it is of utmost importance that we teach it to students some other way…

High school is a time where many people change and develop and form their own ideas and opinions. This is why I cannot stress enough that we discuss consent NOW. It is not OK for consent to not be talked about in school.

I am constantly appalled by the comments and things done in our school to other girls. Boys in the hallway are consistently catcalling and touching girls without their consent. Most of these students catcalling think that it is a compliment or should be appreciated. They believe the same thing when it comes to sexual assault.

Many students don't understand that if someone is under the influence, then they can not consent. Students in high school are already going to parties involving drugs and alcohol. This means that consent is a conversation that needs to be had. This cannot be ignored. This conversation has to be had now. Students need to learn that consent isn't optional. Students have to know this.

Mrs. Yuran, I am coming to you because you are in charge. You have the power to really make a difference in this school. This is extremely important to me and I can not stress enough how much this is needed in our school as soon as possible.